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Feb 20
Several former Wales estate sugar workers who are now farmers at the estate

…five rice crops harvested since 2017
…’mad rush’ for lands reported

SEVERAL former sugar workers of the Wales Estate who have secured lands at the West Demerara estate have been investing in various forms of agriculture at the location.
According to the National Industrial and Commercial Investments Limited (NICIL), most of the workers are engaged in cash-crop farming, rice farming and cattle-rearing, among other agricultural activities.

The workers, whose services were terminated when the Wales estate closed in 2017, said that they turned to farming while recognizing that, with sugar no longer profitable, it was time that they got involved in something else. “We are very thankful for the land that was given by the government as while I no longer have employment with Guysuco I can now earn a living form my cash crops,” cash-crop farmer Dhanpaul Samaroo said.

Another farmer, Harry Ketwaroo, who worked at the Guyana Sugar Corporation (Guysuco) for most of his life, said he was excited to have secured land to plant mixed crops which he said were coping well. He said he had no regrets in venturing into this area of agriculture. “When many thought that it was the end for us because we all lost our jobs, I recognized that I can get into mixed crops production and after the lands became available, I took full opportunity of it and today I am doing so well with my farming and earning enough to take care of myself and family,” he said.

Mohamed Rasheed said that, after the closure of the estate, he already knew that he wanted to rear cattle as this was an ideal way for him to garner an income for himself and family. “I opted to get into cattle rearing, as I found that it is what has the money that I can secure to take care of myself and family. After finding out that the lands were available, I decided to make the best use of it by getting into cattle rearing. I am deeply thankful for the land as it has afforded me an opportunity to continue earning,” he declared.

Site Supervisor of the former Wales Estate, Haribhajan Persaud, said that the estate continues to see a “mad rush” for lands from a number of persons, noting that several former sugar workers and prominent large-scale businessmen, as well as foreign investors, are among those seeking lands.

He said that, unlike several other closed sugar factories, Wales had to take a different approach owing to the fact that it no longer had a factory. Persaud disclosed that they have been leasing lands for agricultural purposes, stressing that several investors and small farmers have been benefitting.

He said the former sugar workers turn small farmers, have declared that they are pleased and satisfied that they are able to still earn a living through their agricultural investment. “Several persons are already in their lands and while we have not completed distribution we have already given out as there are far more applications than what is available as there is a mad rush for the lands here,” he said.

He disclosed that of the 7943 acres of land that the estate owns, NICIL has set aside 1000 acres for its own cultivation of rice. He disclosed that, originally, they had conceptualized doing seed paddy in an effort to assist the Guyana Rice Development Board (GRDB), as the holding company pursued this venture in collaboration with the estate.

He noted that there were five rice crops since the last half of 2017. Persaud said that they were pleased to see that several former sugar workers were coming up with various business ideas in agriculture, stressing that they were mainly seeking land for cash crops as well as passion fruit, citrus farming and cattle rearing.

“Several of the former sugar workers who have secured lands here are into cash crops where they plant mainly passion fruit and citrus, while some are doing cattle rearing as they seek to continue creating employment for themselves. We are pleased with this as the interest continues to grow and we are seeing more and more former sugar workers, who initially were reluctant to secure lands now coming forward to garner lands for various types of agriculture-related business,” the estate Site Supervisor said.

He disclosed that some had already harvested, while others were harvesting again as they continued to maximize the lands that once were used for sugar. He said that the cash crops were being planted on arable lands, which are fertile lands, while those into cattle rearing were doing so on marginal lands. He said that the marginal lands don’t support agriculture but grow mainly pasture grass.

The farmers who have decided to pursue their own ventures have each worked in excess of fifteen years at the Guyana Sugar Corporation. Several of the farmers said that they opted to access the lands as they wanted to continue providing employment for themselves.
They all expressed thanks to the government, stressing that it had certainly enhanced their ability to live comfortably despite no longer being employed in the sugar industry.


Source: Guyana Chronicle

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